The John Oates Book

The John Oates Book

“Rich Girl” got me through law school.

I didn’t want to go, but I’d run out of options. I’d choked at the freestyle ingress, gotten the world’s worst case of mononucleosis, part of me wanted to stay at Snowbird but I knew if I didn’t leave Utah right then, I’d be there forever. That’s the lure of skiing. Mostly the sensation of freedom. But there’s the fresh air and the mountains and it turns out John Oates got hooked too. Went to Aspen on a ski trip in college and ended up buying a condo and moving there after the thrill was gone, after the band had had its hits, had broken up, and he was broke. There he skied every day, found new love and got remarried, even had a kid. He was living the life of normalcy. We think of them as stars, but the truth is they’re just regular people, possibly with a prolonged adolescence, but either you have to O.D. or face the truth, we’re all equal on this planet, we all have to get along.

Now Hall & Oates were an FM band. Hip with little traction. You knew who they were but you didn’t own any albums. Devoted followers of the scene knew that Tavares had had a huge hit with their cover of “She’s Gone,” but Hall & Oates was a struggling Philadelphia act that had worked with Arif Mardin and then taken a left turn with Todd Rundgren and had now switched labels to the worst in the business, RCA, which mean it was only a matter of time before they fell off the edge and ended up in the dustbin.

But then came “Rich Girl.”

Okay, okay, purists would say it started with “Sara Smile.” And it did. But that was mostly an AM hit in an FM world, “Rich Girl” was played on FM, and no community had more FM stations than Los Angeles, you could twist the dial and hear your favorite song multiple times, almost like owning it. And that’s what I did with “Rich Girl.”

There was no long intro. No overbearing instrumentation. Just Daryl Hall and a keyboard immediately getting into your brain, jerking you by the arm, taking you on a roller coaster ride that was oh-so-brief in an era when everything was oh-so-long. I distinctly remember the first time I heard it, driving out of the law school parking lot, it brightened my day, made me feel like life was worth living, like I could endure the boredom and inanity of law school if I could just hear music like this.

That’s why I had to be in Los Angeles. It was the epicenter, with billboards on Sunset and gigs every night of the week. I could lead an alternative lifestyle. Inhabiting the record stores and reading the rags while my school brethren read the books. Actually, I gave up the books completely the second semester, other than Criminal Procedure, because I liked the teacher and he liked me, and was scared I was gonna flunk out and then my father would excoriate me but the truth is they’ve got these things they call outlines that the professors pooh-pooh but will carry you through, I found that out and got scores better than 85% of my class and all this is true but the competition wasn’t that great. And part of the reason I’d given up studying, although I did go to class, if you stop going to class it’s like you’re not in school at all, was because I’d fallen in love, and that was more important than anything transpiring in a classroom. Maybe if I had better teachers I’d have been more into it, but I didn’t care about the law anyway, just music, and John Oates cared about music and sought out the best teachers and slowly moved ahead.

We have the belief it’s an overnight success. John played in bands, went to college, cut records, heard them on the radio and was still nowhere. That’s how it was back then. A deal with a major label was a dream that rarely came true. To be a hero in your own hometown was oftentimes good enough.

Now I loved “Rich Girl” so much, even though it sounded not a whit like Zeppelin or so many of my other favorites, that I went out and bought the album, “Bigger Than Both of Us,” which was so good I had to buy it on CD when that format burgeoned, even though it didn’t sound a whole hell of a lot better than the vinyl. And not only does “Bigger Than Both of Us” get no respect, it’s not even considered in a discussion of the best albums of the seventies, but it should be, it’s playable throughout and it’s peaks are oh-so-high. Not only “Rich Girl,” but “Crazy Eyes” and “Do What You Want, Be What You Are.”

Payin’ dues, Earth Shoes, Chicago blues
Is that how you feel

I’d owned Earth Shoes! With their negative heel. But no one under the age of fifty is familiar with them and no one under that age knows Hall & Oates’s follow-up, “Beauty on a Back Street,” with the irresistible opening cut “Don’t Change” and the mysterious, sensual “Winged Bull,” but I do. I bought each and every Hall & Oates album subsequently, because when you can reach these heights, you may again.

Not that “X-Static” didn’t have me questioning this concept, but “Voices” emerged with “You Make My Dreams” and “Kiss On My List” and they were different from what had come before but just as infectious. And suddenly Hall & Oates were on a tear, one hit single after another, the darlings of MTV before being derided and experiencing a renaissance, before being inducted into he Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and going on an arena tour with Tears For Fears this summer.

And through it all, John Oates has been seen as the sidekick, the junior member. After all, Daryl Hall has one of the greatest voices in rock and roll history.

But the truth is neither of them could break through without the other. I purchased Daryl Hall’s solo LP “Three Hearts in the Happy Ending Machine,” and although “Foolish Pride” is a killer, the rest pales.

And Oates has never broken through alone.

But Oates came up with “Maneater,” he details the inspiration in this book. And he wrote the opener “How Does It Feel To Be Back” from “Bigger Than Both of Us” and the truth is, they need each other, there’s a special alchemy that happens when they’re both involved.

And they became involved back at Temple, after they’d been in rival bands.

All this forgoing college because you’re gonna make it.

Er, no, you’re probably not gonna make it. And Hall & Oates stayed in school. To get out of the war if nothing else. John details singing at his wrestling co-captain’s funeral, after he was blown to bits in Vietnam, and you recall how it was.

It was oh-so-different.

They say it’s the same today, but it’s not.

First and foremost, music ruled the world. Radio was the internet. And nobody was paying attention. Nobody had a smartphone, cameras used film, your everyday moves were not charted, which was especially freeing. I know, I know, it was even freer prior to my birth but I will tell you it’s inhibiting having everybody in your business, knowing there’s a camera on every corner to detail your faux pas.

And the two signed bad publishing contracts but ultimately hooked up with Tommy Mottola who whacked the money three ways, equally, and they went on the ride of a lifetime, and when it was all over, after Mottola had moved to CBS/Sony, John’s accountant called him in for a meeting where he told him he was broke.

Now this wasn’t the fifties, or the sixties, not even the seventies. But Hall & Oates were nine mil in the hole and Oates had to sell almost all of his assets to get ahead. One of the best part of the book is his detailing of his therapy appointments after learning the money was gone. It was the same shrink he saw with his ex-wife, who he’d screwed around on and hadn’t been honest with in couples therapy. The shrink busted him. Said he was not special. And to get with the program.

We’ve all got to get with the program, or find out options are limited. The world sees you as a rock star, and if you believe this it’s only a matter of time before you wake up and find out you’re a punk.

And this book is not the definitive Hall & Oates biography. I wanted more on each individual album, more introspection about the career, the ups and downs. Hell, Oates doesn’t display any anxiety, anything other than raw positivity and belief until he runs out of cash.

But the truth is this is not the usual rock memoir. It’s half Hall & Oates and half John’s introspective stories. The first third is all before stardom. Being the golden child in an Italian family. Bumming through Europe. And you read this and you realize, he’s not that much different from you. I was not the golden child, but I did go to Europe, I do remember picking up mail at American Express and that’s one of the highlights of the book, detailing the way it used to be.

And there are stories of buying cars and auto racing, but few tales of debauchery and it’s like your best friend from high school catching you up on the last forty years, with the comeuppance at the end, the running out of money and fame, that equalizes the equation. You didn’t go down this road, but you had your adventure too. You thought you wanted to be him, now you’re not so sure.

But it is good to be the king, for a while anyway, no one stays on top forever. Flying private and hanging with the household names. But it gets old and empty and all you’re left with is your memories, you’ve still got to get up every day and pull on your pants and wonder what you’re gonna do next. The joke is on those who get plastic surgery to be stuck in the past while the audience moves on. If you don’t grow up, if you don’t realize you’re just a troubadour, here for a short while, you’re gonna end up frustrated and unhappy.

And the tales of Hunter Thompson in Woody Creek are the best I’ve ever read, you get a feeling for the writer and his lifestyle.

But this is not the best book ever written, nor is it the most engrossing, and I’m not sure I’m recommending it, but I had to read it.

Because of those records.

“Change of Seasons: A Memoir”


From John Oates:

Bob, tonight just as I stepped off the plane at La Guardia to kick off my book promotion tour, your take on my memoir “Change of Seasons” appeared at the top of my smartphone’s email list.

First off, thank you for taking the time to read it and taking even more time to write about it. My gut tells me that the western heat wave and your apprehension over the orthopedic perils of spring skiing snow snakes might have given you a bit more time to ruminate. Bonus for me…to paraphrase one of your recent editorials…its all about “attention” in this vapid ADD society that we all must navigate whether we like it or not.

So I’ll take my fleeting moment of attention with gratitude and with the knowledge that because you’ve briefly shined the light in my direction there might be others who may discover and appreciate my humble story of personal transformation and musical dedication.

Thank you…and I agree the Hunter Thompson stuff is pretty good, even he said so when I read it to him in his kitchen command center. J.O.


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March 27, 2017 at 10:11AM

What Does Snapchat Need to be Identified?

What Does Snapchat Need to be Identified?

My daughter captured this striking photo on a recent trip to Times Square in New York City:


Here is my less-artsy close-up of the same advertising, to focus in on the Snapchat logo, complete with its rounded-corner square border and dot matrix surrounding the ghost shape:


What do you think, should we add the ghost to the list of Singular Iconic Non-Verbal Logos?

And, does it truly stand alone (without words or explanation) as a truly iconic Non-Verbal Logo?

Forbes reported two days ago, that although the stock price is a bit down since the company IPO launched earlier this month, Snapchat remains #1 for searches on the iOS App Store.

The demographic for Snapchat users apparently is much younger than other popular social media platforms, and for what it’s worth, I’m not too surprised, as both of my high-school-aged children communicate almost exclusively with friends using Snapchat these days.

Question: Son, who are you texting? Answer: Oh, I never text anymore, I’m snapping Joe, or I just snapped Joe. Note the verbing success most social media brands would envy and welcome.

Never mind that Snapchat’s brand guidelines counsel otherwise, like virtually every other brand guideline known to humans. As a reminder, here’s my archived answer to that repetitive concern.

So, what we might consider concluding is that not only does the non-verbal ghost logo identify Snapchat without using any words, the brand can be truncated to Snap and verbed based solely on the non-verbal logo too. No doubt the stock price will soar based on that revelation alone.

In terms of trademark assets, Snapchat has federal registrations for its ghost image here and here. And, despite no need for words to identify itself, Snapchat appears devoted to building a portfolio of SNAPCHAT word registrations (here, here, and here) and on creating a “family” of SNAP marks, such as SNAPCASH, SNAPCHANNEL, SNAPCODE, SNAP ADS, and SNAPMOJI.

It also has been busy truncating its corporate name to Snap, and apparently in line with this effort, it has been — let’s just say — snapping up several other federally-registered SNAP and Snap-formatives, see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here (you get the picture), including SNAP INTERACTIVE and the corresponding logo below (chock-full of express reps and warranties), apparently a Christmas present from just last year:


Actually, the early Christmas and pre-IPO present back in October 2016 was a federal trademark infringement lawsuit by Snap Interactive following Snapchat’s truncation to Snap Inc. But, when an IPO freight train is coming down the tracks, a problem like that is just another detail and just becomes another cost of doing business, but in this case, it appears Snapchat actually acquired a meaningful asset and was able to gain a few valuable years of priority as part of the deal.

Last, perhaps most interesting is SnapChat’s budding interest in claiming exclusive rights in the color yellow for certain goods in Int’l Class 9 (Computer application software for mobile phones, portable media players, and handheld computers, namely, software for sending digital photos, videos, images, and text to others via the global computer network), with the claimed mark currently described this way: “The mark consists of solely the color yellow. The square shape and ghost design shown in dotted lines are not claimed as part of the mark.” Here it is:



Let’s just say, the USPTO is not (yet) convinced that the claimed single color mark serves as a trademark and is distinctive, here is an Office Action from a little over a month ago to prove it.

What do you think, whatever you may think about the non-verbal ghost’s ability to do so, is Snapchat really identified by the yellow color alone for those goods? OK, I’ll ask my kids too.

The post What Does Snapchat Need to be Identified? appeared first on DuetsBlog.


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March 27, 2017 at 02:17AM

3 Strategic Ways to Get Links to Your Website

3 Strategic Ways to Get Links to Your Website

"'Link building' is something I’ve never done in my 19 years of publishing online." – Brian Clark

“Link building” is something I’ve never done in my 19 years of publishing online. In other words, I’ve never spent any time whatsoever emailing strangers and trying to convince them to link to my content.

I have, however, been on the receiving end of many link-building requests. And they’ve never worked on me.

Now, I know there are smart people who work on behalf of clients to get links through these outreach initiatives. Strangely, I’ve never received a link request from a smart person.

It’s usually just dopey people using bad email scripts and automation that some clown sold them on. They don’t even bother to modify the language, so you see the same lame emails over and over.

Outside of receiving compensation for a link (which I would never accept and is just a bad idea in general these days), I don’t see why any online publisher would agree to these requests. What’s in it for us?

So, if you’re looking to get links to your site for all the benefits that come with it (including enhanced search rankings), maybe you should try a different approach.

Let’s look at three that might work for you.

1. Guest posting

Not a new approach, certainly. But guest writing for relevant and respected publications remains one of the best ways to gain exposure to an audience that builds your own. And of course you’ll want, at minimum, a bio link back to your site in exchange for your content contribution.

Now, you may remember that Google at one point spoke out against guest posting for SEO. Yes, spammy sites submitting spam to other spammy sites in exchange for links is not smart — but that’s not what we’re talking about.

I’m also not necessarily talking about content farms like Forbes and Business Insider, although if that’s where your desired audience is, go for it. You’ll likely have better luck, however, with beloved niche publications that cater to the people you’re after.

What you’re looking for is a place that you can contribute on a regular basis, rather than a one-shot. Not only will the audience begin to get familiar with you after repeat appearances, the publisher will value and trust you, which can lead to coveted in-content links to relevant resources on your site rather than just the bio link.

What if a publisher doesn’t allow links back to your site? Move on. It’s not just about SEO — if a reader is interested in seeing more of your work, they should be able to simply click a link to do so. That’s how the web works.

If you’re limited to a bio link, see if you can point to something more valuable than your home page. A free guide or course that gets people onto your email list is the primary goal ahead of SEO.

2. Podcast interviews

The explosion of podcasting, especially the interview format, is a potential boon for exposure and links. In short, podcasters need a constant supply of guests, and you should position yourself as a viable option.

The links appear in the show notes, and this can be a great way to get citations to your home page, your valuable opt-in content, and your most valuable articles. But you have to find a way to get on the show in the first place.

This may be more doable than you think, because as I said, podcasters need a constant supply of fresh guests. And take it from me — we’re looking for new and interesting people outside of the typical echo chamber that exists in every niche.

For example, recently Joanna Wiebe of Copy Hackers introduced me to Talia Wolf, someone I was unfamiliar with. I trust and respect Joanna, so I checked out Talia. Next thing you know, I’m interviewing Talia (her episode of Unemployable comes out tomorrow) and I ended up linking to three of her articles as well as a page that contains her free conversion optimization resources.

The key, of course, is to do great work that reflects you know what you’re talking about. Then do your research:

  • Find relevant podcasts.
  • Take the time to understand the show, its audience, and its host.
  • Send a friendly note explaining why you would be a solid interview.

Don’t be shy; it’s just a (well-written) email, and podcasters want you to convince them to be their next guest. Or get someone who knows both your work and the host to recommend you. There are even podcast interview booking agencies cropping up that will do the outreach for you.

3. Tribal content

In the early days of Copyblogger, it was all about creating hugely valuable tutorial content that naturally attracted links. It’s harder these days, because most people tend to share that type of content on social channels rather than blog about it like back in the day.

You can still make it happen, though, with the right content and the right relationships with other publishers in your niche. It hinges on leveraging the powerful influence principle of unity, or our tribal affiliations with like-minded people.

Tribal content is all about resonating strongly with people who believe the way you do on a particular issue.

Rather than just “you’re one of us,” it’s more effective when it’s “you’re different like we’re different.”

For example, one of our prime tribal themes involves the dangers of digital sharecropping, or publishing content exclusively on digital land that you don’t own and control. We didn’t coin the term (Nicholas Carr did), but often when the topic comes up, there will be a mention of Copyblogger.

It works the other way, too. Whenever I see a solid piece of content that warns against digital sharecropping, I share it on social. And there’s a good chance I’ll link to it as outside support the next time we talk about the topic. You know, like this and this.

If there is an important worldview within your niche or industry that other online publishers share, it’s likely important that they make the case to their audiences. With tribal content, you’re providing an important message that supports part of their editorial strategy as well as your own.

That’s how the truly powerful links to your site happen. So start making a list of unifying concepts that you share with others in your arena, and make sure your relationships with those publishers are solid before you unleash your epic tribal content.

Wait … I was wrong

Now that I think about it, one link-building email almost worked on me. It was one of those cookie-cutter templates asking me to swap out a link in the web archive of my personal development newsletter Further.

When you curate content as I do with Further, linking to other people’s stuff is what it’s all about. So I took a look at the suggested resource, and it was surprisingly good.

I wrote back to say I wasn’t going to replace the old link, but I would include her resource in the next issue. Unfortunately, this person didn’t respond over the next several days.

What I got instead, just a day before publication, was the next automated email in her sequence, asking me if I had seen the original email that I had already replied to. Deleted that email, deleted the link to her resource in the draft issue, and included something else instead.

Which brings us to an important principle in both link building and life:

Don’t be a dope.

The post 3 Strategic Ways to Get Links to Your Website appeared first on Copyblogger.


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March 27, 2017 at 02:14AM